Our dog is a member of the family and we can't imagine traveling without him! While van life isn't a good fit for every dog (or person), it's entirely possible to bring your furry friend along for the adventures and keep them safe and healthy along the way.
Looking for something specific? Skip ahead!
- Meet our pup, Kramer
- 5 things to know about van life with a dog
- Your dog will [sometimes] dictate your travel plans
- There is no perfect dog for traveling
- Most of America isn't dog friendly
- Vet care on the road is easier than you'd expect
- Always carry your vaccine records with you
- Favorite apps and websites for traveling with a dog
- Favorite products for traveling with a dog
- VIDEO: Van life with a dog (Youtube vlog)
- Share/save this post for later
- We want to hear from you!
Meet our pup, Kramer
Unless this blogpost is the first thing you've ever seen from us, chances are you know our dog, Kramer. He travels with us full time and regularly makes appearances on both our Youtube and Instagram (truthfully, I think most of our audience is there for him lol). He's a regular member of the family despite the fact he has twice as many legs as us. He's been to the Arctic Ocean and the Florida Keys and everywhere in between with us and by now he's a traveling pro. Boat, plane, or van he's a top notch travel companion we can't imagine van life without him or his million dollar smile which makes even the hard days a little bit brighter. :)
We've been traveling full time for about 2 years now so we've learned a few tips, tricks, and resources along the way that ensure a safe, fun, and comfortable life for both Kramer as well as us. While it's not always easy to travel with a dog, it's worth the extra obstacles that come with always having a four legged companion along. If you're thinking about bringing your pup along for the adventures, keep reading, or you can watch our video on the topic below....
5 things to know about van life with a dog
Van life with a dog is pretty different from solo van life. We wouldn't know firsthand since Kramer has been with us since we first hit the road in 2018, but that doesn't mean we have it all figured out. We've learned a lot along the way and today we're sharing our top 5 things to know about van life with a dog.
1. Your dog will [sometimes] dictate your travel plans
If you're traveling with a dog, be prepared to always be thinking about their wellbeing. Like a kid, but one that isn't allowed in stores or restaurants with you when it's too hot to leave them alone in a car. Dogs are so fun to travel with, but do know that due to weather, rules, and laws you will be more limited to when and where you can go.
Our first van did not have an AC unit which was definitely the largest obstacle for us. While we were perfectly capable of keeping Kramer warm with our heater, keeping the van cooler was challenging during the hottest days of summer. While we intended to travel on the cusp of the seasons, that's not always possible making some days far too hot to leave Kramer alone in the van. After all, safety first!
2. There is no perfect dog for traveling
A lot of people have asked what size of dog is too big for traveling or how old of a dog is too old for traveling. Truth is, that’s totally up to you and what your dog is comfortable with! If your dog is older and hates riding in the car now, he probably won’t like traveling. If your dog is uneasy in new places and likes a firm routine, think hard about taking them with you.
We purchased our van when Kramer was about 9 months old and moved into it soon after he turned 1. From the tiny age of 4 months old Kramer hiked and traveled with us extensively and loved it! Because he's such a chill dog that enjoys an active lifestyle and doesn't mind changing scenery, we knew he'd be great in the van.
Update: Since COVID began, we can definitely tell Kramer misses the open road and the seemingly infinite number of places he's usually exploring. We can now say we truly think he prefers life on the road to apartment life. lol
Kramer is also a medium size dog that makes taking him with us pretty easy. Weighing in at a hefty 28 pounds, he's what we jokingly call "travel size." While it's hard for us to imagine having a large dog living in a van with us, we have friends with much larger dogs and they say their dogs love van life! We always say everyone does van life different, so your van lifestyle might be perfect or terrible for your four legged friend, but the decision is totally up to you. We always encourage people to prioritize the pup's wellbeing and make sure that they'll be safe and healthy on the road. :)
3. Most of America isn’t dog friendly
There are places where dogs are welcome, but if you’re heading into full-time travel thinking your pooch can go everywhere with you, think again. Most laws regarding dogs are state laws so you’ll likely run into 50 difference scenarios across this country.
Before van life we were living in Seattle, WA which is incredibly dog friendly. Unfortunately Seattle gave us unrealistic expectations of how four legged friendly the rest of the country was. Turns out there are lots of places across the country that don't allow dogs on patios at restaurants or even in some parks. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and ask if the places you’re hoping to visit allow dogs.
If you're like us and are trying to visit a lot of national parks across the country, do know that most national parks are not dog friendly. While most parks will allow dogs on paved roads and at most campsites, past that you're pretty limited as to where you can take your dog with you. Generally hiking trails, visitors centers, and bodies of water (lakes, rivers, etc.) are off limits to canines.
However, did you know that many of our country's best national parks back up to national forest? This is a great way to experience the beauty of a certain geographical area with your dog and without so many rules.
4. Vet care on the road is easier than you’d expect
Make sure before you set off on your travels that you’ve established care with a vet in your town where you are a permanent resident. For us, this is in Tennessee where before we set off on our travels we had his annual exam completed and updated his vaccines. Our plan is to always get his vaccines updated when we go home to visit family around the holidays, but that doesn't mean we won't need to visit a different vet out on the road.
In the couple of instances we've needed to visit a vet on the road it's been super easy and stress free. Very similar to visiting a doc in a box typed physician. Just call and try to email over whatever records you can from your home vet before you arrive. Which brings us to our next point...
5. Always carry your vaccine records with you
If you’re planning on crossing the border to Canada (we’ve haven’t crossed to Mexico so we don’t know what’s required), you’ll need proof of vaccines to show the people at the border. Also, if you ever plan to board your dog or even just drop them off for a haircut or for doggy daycare, you'll need your vaccine records. We always recommend carrying a hardcopy with you as well as saving a PDF version on your phone for quick, easy access.
Favorite apps and websites for traveling with a dog
Rover is our go-to app for finding a dog sitter when we're traveling with a dog. From play dates during the day to leaving Kramer overnight while we have to travel elsewhere, we've had nothing but great experiences with Rover sitters! Read reviewers of sitters, specify care instructions for you dog and more in the app or on the website in your browser.
Rover is especially handy if you're hoping to visit a national park or plan to be away from the van for longer than is safe to leave your dog alone. While it's always our top choice to bring Kramer with us, it's not always possible and Rover has been a game changer when we've needed somewhere safe for him to hangout for a bit. The Rover sisters we've had in the past have spoiled him like crazy so we're never concerned about whether or not he's in good hands.
Bring Fido is a great place to find dog friendly restaurants, hotels, parks, events and more. We use this website regularly to find places that are welcoming of us bringing Kramer. We opt to take him along as often as possible so this a great resource that helps us keep him close.
Favorite products for van life with a dog
Over the last couple of years we've found a few go-to items that Kramer loves. From his favorite balls for fetch to the only dog food that hasn't made his stomach sick, this his list of favorite items. From his jiggle free dog ID tag to our SimpliSafe security camera and temperature detector, these items make van life just a little easier and help him stay safe and keep a healthy, active lifestyle on the road.
Watch our vlog about van life with a dog
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We want to hear from you!
Have a favorite, tip, trick or tool for traveling with a dog? Drop it in the comments below. We're always looking for new ways to care for Kramer while on the road.